Danger Man 1.7 – Position of Trust

I had a story to tell with this blog, and as I began scheduling its final year, I realized I was either going to run out of story to tell or it was going to become an exclusively Stargate blog with a movie every weekend until we got to all the films I wanted to write for the blog. I needed something more to give a little extension, and realized that I’d been having a lot of fun with the ITC adventure series that I enjoy so much, and which seem to keep the kid satisfied. So we’re going to look at some samples from five more programs from Lew Grade’s efforts to entertain the world, starting with nine selections from Danger Man.

Danger Man, which was created by Ralph Smart, starred Patrick McGoohan as John Drake, who, in the first 39 half-hour episodes, was an agent for NATO. This gave ITC an early opportunity to show off their talent to look like they’re trotting around the globe while never leaving Hertfordshire. ITC successfully sold the package to dozens of countries around the world. In the United States, CBS bought the run and showed many of the episodes – although, I think, not all of them – in the spring and summer of 1961. They weren’t originally interested in more, but that would change in a couple of years.

I had never seen any of the half-hour episodes before tonight. I bought Timeless’s collection earlier this year, and chose four by the guest stars. “Position of Trust” features Lois Maxwell and Donald Pleasance, both of whom McGoohan might have worked with again on the big screen had he accepted the offer of James Bond. But McGoohan famously turned down that role because he didn’t like the character’s womanizing. John Drake only has eyes for the mission, and in this one, he needs to get an expat living in a middle eastern Nosuchlandia to cough up a list of wholesalers who are buying opium and moving it on to big organized crime outfits.

This wasn’t a very successful outing for us, because our son was a bit lost by the plot. It’s a bit too subtle for a ten year-old, but the key is that Pleasance’s character quietly pretends like he is a big shot in a position of trust, but the Ministry of Health just employs him as a modest file clerk. Drake gets to wheel and deal and con him into turning, but since Pleasance underplays his part so well, he doesn’t look or feel even remotely villainous, just a put-upon little Walter Mitty getting caught up in something far larger. The two could have easily acted the same way in a script where McGoohan was the villain and Pleasance needed Jason King or the Champions to get him out of this mess. I like how fast the story moved, but I can understand why the kid was baffled. Hopefully the next ones will be more his speed.

Department S 1.18 – The Ghost of Mary Burnham

Another massive disappointment, I’m afraid. It was nice to see Norman Bird, who we’ve seen in almost every episode of Worzel Gummidge as Mr. Braithwaite, in a different role, and it’s always nice to see Lois Maxwell in anything, but this is a story that doesn’t find any life until Jason King shows up about halfway through to start pointing out the answers, Sherlock Holmes-style. Sadly, it ends with a couple of absolutely massive plot holes that hadn’t been addressed, leaving us all throwing pillows at the television. And as for ghostly phone calls from beyond the grave, The Twilight Zone had made them much, much creepier than this.

Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) 1.3 – For the Girl Who Has Everything

I like the decor in Jeff’s apartment. Actor Mike Pratt was a musician himself, and decided that when he’s not working cases, Jeff is also a musician, of the “Eastern mysticism” school. He encouraged the set dressers to include a guitar and some Ravi Shankar records and some posters on the wall that look like he’d gone to Rishikesh with the Beatles and that Maharishi dude six months earlier. I’ve never heard any of his music – most of it seems to have been collaborations with Tommy Steele in the early sixties – but I was actually familiar with his son, Guy Pratt, before I’d ever heard of Randall and Hopkirk. Guy has been an in-demand session player for decades, and co-wrote a great song, “Seven Deadly Sins,” with Bryan Ferry in 1987.

And speaking of sixties decor, Carol Cleveland has a small part in this one, and with her stacked hair and patterned mini-dress, it looks like she’s about to start singing “Rock Lobster” with Kate and Cindy.

Lois Maxwell and Freddie Jones are also in this one, which Donald James wrote and which we all enjoyed a lot. Jones plays a ghost hunter who can’t see Marty, but that’s okay, because somebody else in the village can. They close the resulting loophole – that there’s somebody on the outside who Marty can get messages to whenever Jeff’s in trouble – in an epilogue that’s somehow both bittersweet and very funny.